According to our divorce decree my wife is supposed to provide medical insurance for our minor child. She recently changed jobs and her insurance lapsed. Our son broke his arm and now the hospital is after me to pay the entire bill. Am I responsible?
Yes. Generally, a parent is responsible for obligations incurred on behalf of their minor children. Because the law views a minor child as unable to contract for services (Idaho Code 29-101), the hospital cannot proceed against the minor child for payment. Instead, the parent of a minor child is required by law to provide “necessaries” on behalf of the child. (Idaho Code 32-1003) “Necessaries” would include medical attention. The hospital has the legal right to seek payment from either parent, regardless of what your divorce decree states.
This law is designed to ensure that minor children receive the care that is needed. Imagine the confusion and delay that would be caused if a service provider (like a hospital) were required at the time of service to ascertain which divorced parent will be financially responsible.
You may not be responsible if the minor child is not a child from your marriage, was not adopted by you and services were obtained after your divorce.
You are entitled to pursue repayment from your wife if the terms of the divorce decree state that she is responsible for medical expenses.